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Jury deadlocked in trial over 'unlawful killing' of MS sufferer

THE jury in a landmark trial into the alleged unlawful killing by neglect of Evelyn Joel was discharged last night after failing to reach a verdict.

Mrs Joel's daughter, Eleanor Joel (37), and Eleanor's partner, Jonathan Costen (39), both denied the charge before Wexford Criminal Court.

Yesterday, they were remanded on continuing bail and walked from the court after the jury failed to agree on a majority verdict in the long-running trial.

It remains to be seen if the Director of Public Prosecutions will opt for a re-trial in the new year.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer Mrs Joel (59) had been living with Eleanor Joel and Mr Costen in Cluain Dara, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, for 14 months from November 2004 until January 2006.

An ambulance was called to the house on New Year's Day, 2006. Mrs Joel was found lying in a filthy upstairs bedroom by ambulance staff and had flies and excrement on her body. She died on January 7, 2006.

A post-mortem found Mrs Joel's death was caused by pneumonia due to blood poisoning because of infected bedsores from immobilisation caused by her MS.

Judge Gerard Griffin finished summarising the evidence from the marathon trial, which lasted almost seven weeks, yesterday morning. He told the jury they would need to consider a number of questions in making their decision and asked them to consider whether either or both accused held a duty to Mrs Joel and if they had breached this duty.

The jury began deliberations shortly before 11am yesterday but returned to ask Judge Griffin to repeat his statement, and they opted to rehear the evidence of state pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy.


They also asked the judge to define "duty of care". The jury later returned to the court in the afternoon and told the judge that they were "deadlocked" and could not reach a verdict. The judge discharged them, thanking them for being "conscientious" throughout the trial.

Earlier, prosecutor Justin Dillon reminded the 11 jurors that Eleanor Joel had admitted to gardai she was "fed up" taking care of her mother. Mr Dillon said it was up to the jury to decide if the neglect of Mrs Joel was "so gross that it must be characterised as criminal".

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Eleanor Joel's defence counsel Rosario Boyle, said her client "did not kill her mother".

She said Eleanor Joel did not physically care for her mother. "She had made it clear she had not done so because her mother wouldn't let her," Ms Boyle added.

"My client is looking for justice," she said before asking the jury to acquit her of the crime of manslaughter.

Mr Costen's defence counsel, John O'Kelly, said his client's "only connection" with Mrs Joel was that he was living with her daughter, Eleanor.

He said if ever there was a case where the prosecution "have failed abysmally, this is it".

Judge Griffin remanded the two accused on continuing bail until January 11.

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